ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

19 February 2003


1.Roundup Unready
2.Kucinich More Than Anti-war Candidate


1.Roundup Unready

The New York Times, Feb 19, 2003

One of the most pervasive chemicals in modern agriculture is a herbicide called glyphosate, which is better known by its trade name, Roundup. When it was first introduced in 1974, by Monsanto, no one could have predicted its current ubiquity or the way it would change farming. Roundup was safe, effective and relatively benign, environmentally speaking. It became one of the essential tools that made no-till farming -- a conservation practice in which farmers spray weeds rather than plowing the ground -- increasingly popular.

But what really made Roundup pervasive was the development of genetically modified crops, especially soybeans, cotton and corn, that could tolerate having Roundup sprayed directly on them. The weeds died but these crops, designated Roundup Ready, thrived. Seventy-five percent of the soybean crop planted in this country last year was Roundup Ready, as was 65 percent of the cotton and 10 percent of the corn. On soybeans alone last year, farmers sprayed about 33 million pounds of glyphosate.

But nature, in turn, has been developing some Roundup Ready plants of her own, weeds that can tolerate being sprayed with Roundup. Two weeds, mare's-tail and water hemp, have already begun to show resistance, and others will certainly follow. This is simply natural adaptation at work. No one is saying that Roundup will lose its overall effectiveness any time soon. But while Monsanto executives and scientists are doing their best to protect the herbicide, nature is also throwing all her resources at defeating it. In a very real sense, nature has been given an enormous advantage by the sheer ubiquity of Roundup, just as some bacteria are given an edge by the ubiquity of agricultural antibiotics. The logic of industrial farming is to use your best tools until they're worthless, and to hasten their worthlessness by using them as much as you can.

This is precisely why there has been so much opposition to marketing a variety of corn that includes a BT gene, which creates a toxin that kills an insect called the corn-borer. BT is a safe, natural and effective weapon for gardeners and farmers, and to lessen its effectiveness by overusing it, like Roundup, would be a terrible waste. Industrial agriculture is always searching for a silver bullet, forgetting that eventually a silver bullet misfires.


2.Kucinich More Than Anti-war Candidate

Capital Times (Madison, WI), Feb 18, 2003

The shorthand description of Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairman Dennis Kucinich's platform for his just-launched presidential bid is that he is the anti-war candidate for the 2004 Democratic nomination. And the Ohio representative who last week joined five other congressmen to sue President Bush in a move aimed at blocking a unilateral attack on Iraq is certainly that.

But when Kucinich made his first swing across Iowa - where next January's caucuses will begin the Democratic Party's nominating process - some of the loudest applause was for his position on an issue that most other candidates have never even discussed: food labeling. Since his election to the House in 1996, Kucinich has been the most outspoken advocate in Congress for labeling food products that have been genetically altered or that contain genetically modified organisms. He has yet to prevail on that front, but Kucinich has been a key player in struggles to win federal approval for consumer- and farmer-friendly labeling of food that is grown organically.

Kucinich's first speeches in Iowa have focused primarily on his opposition to war and on his criticisms of the corporate free trade pacts that have done damage to Midwestern manufacturing and agriculture. But at virtually every stop, he has been asked about his food fights.

When he finished speaking at a party in Iowa City, for instance, an organic farmer ran up to the candidate, grabbed his hand and said, "I just want to thank you for being our champion in Congress." Kucinich, who has struggled for years to get food labeling issues taken seriously in Congress, responded by telling the crowd, "I've always figured that if we are what we eat, it's good to know what we're eating."

Later that night, when he was asked about Bush administration attempts to undermine newly enacted labeling rules for foods that are grown organically, the Ohio congressman said, "We have to do everything we can to protect organic farming in particular. It's part of the bigger question of how to protect farmers and consumers in a rapidly changing global economy. Farmers need an advocate - someone who understands the economic dynamics, who understands what the food and farming issues are, and who isn't beholden to the corporate interests."

By framing the debate over food labeling as a battle between farmers and consumers on one side and agribusiness conglomerates that oppose labeling and other forms of regulation on the other, Kucinich could push the dialogue about food safety and food quality to a point where it has never before been in presidential politics. "Government has a moral responsibility to ensure the purity and safety of the food supply," he argues. "We cannot abdicate this responsibility to global corporations whose goals may be limited to profit orientation."

* It is unlikely that debates about organic labeling or regulations on genetic modification of food will move all the way to the forefront of the 2004 political agenda. But if Kucinich makes them a part of the dialogue in Iowa - a state that takes farming and food seriously - he may yet be proved right when he tells Democrats here:

"Iowa has a chance to change the debate in this presidential election. You have a chance to expand the debate, to make it be about the issues that matter in people's lives."



Swiss News Digest, February 18, 2003

An initiative, named Stop GMOs (genetically modified organisms), has started in Switzerland.

Supporters of the initiative may sign a petition for a five-year moratorium on the use of GMOs in the Swiss agricultural sector. Stop GMOs was initiated by the Swiss farmers' associations, Swiss consumer protection organisations and several Swiss politicians. Between 70 and 80 pct of the Swiss refuse to consume products, containing GMOs, the initiators said. Stop GMOs does not concern the sphere of scientific research, the initiators added. No further details were available.
Swiss Launch Vote Drive to Ban Genetically Modified Foods
Agence France Presse, February 18, 2003
Swiss environmental organisations and lawmakers on Tuesday launched a referendum drive to slap a five-year ban on genetically modified (GM) foods, ATS news agency reported. Environmental, rural and consumer organisations joined 15 MPs from six political parties in calling for a referendum, which could impose a five-year ban on commercial use of GM plants and total ban on the use of genetically modified animals.

However GMOs would be allowed for research, under strict conditions. According to Swiss federal law, the "Stop GMO" campaign has 18 months to collect 100,000 signatures in order to call a referendum. Referendum organisers estimate 70 to 80 percent of Swiss consumers opt out of buying GM foods and agricultural products.



Feb 19
The Lake District National Park Authority [LDNPA] is to host a major conference on GM crops to consider becoming GM-free.  The conference could lead to the Lake District and other national park authorities, asking the Government and European Commission to help make National Parks GM-free areas.

The decision to hold a conference was taken following today's meeting of the LDNPA's Policy and Overview Committee.  The Committee discussed a motion from South Lakeland Friends of the Earth, for the Authority to make use of a new EU directive which allows the Commission to exempt areas from the growing of any particular GM crops if there are good reasons for doing so.  Under Article 19(3)(c) of the EU GMO deliberate release directive 2001/18 "particular ecosystems/environments and or geographical areas "can be afforded "protection" from GM crops.

The Committee also agreed that it would write to the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs asking to be consulted on future decisions on the release of GM crops.
South Lakeland Friends of the Earth's GM campaigner Marianne Bennett said

"We are delighted that the Lake District National Park is taking this issue so seriously.  The authority has a clear duty to safeguard the park's environment.  This must include doing what it can to protect it from GM pollution.  Under the EU Deliberate Release Directive, it can ask the Commission to ensure that GM crops are not grown in there are  a.  We hope that the Lake District and other national park authorities will take advantage of this opportunity."

Friends of the Earth's GM campaigner Clare Oxborrow said:

"GM food and crops are deeply unpopular.  That is why local authorities across the country are discussing what they can do to protect their food, farms and environment from GM crops. Serious doubts exist about the safety and long-term impacts of GM crops and food.  The Government must listen to people's concerns and not allow GM crops to be commercially grown in the UK.  "

In October last year Friends of the Earth launched its GM-Free Britain Campaign to persuade local authorities to take action against GM food and crops in their area.  This includes:

Writing to the European Commission and the Government asking them to prevent particular GM crops being grown in their area to protect the environment.

Ensuring that no GM crops are grown on land which they control;

Adopting a GM-free policy for all goods and services for which the   authority is responsible, for example ensuring that school   caterers provide GM-free food to schools;

Last week South Hams District Council in South Devon voted to ask   the Commission and the Government to protect it from the growing   of GM crops under the EU directive.  Devon County Council has also   discussed the issue and has called on the Government to ban the   commercial implementation of GM technology until scientific   evidence has shown there are no harmful effects.  It has also   introduced policies to avoid GM food and crops [3].  And the South   West Regional Assembly may discuss the issue when it meets next   month.  Calls to go GM-free are also being discussed by a number   of other authorities - though the Lake District is the first   National Park to consider the issue.

"Why, when the most urgent threat arising from illegal weapons of mass destruction is the nuclear confrontation between India and Pakistan, is the US government ignoring it and concentrating on Iraq? Why, if it believes human rights are so important, is it funding the oppression of the Algerians, the Uzbeks, the Palestinians, the Turkish Kurds and the Colombians? Why has the bombing of Iraq, rather than feeding the hungry, providing clean water or preventing disease, become the world's most urgent humanitarian concern? Why has it become so much more pressing than any other that it should command a budget four times the size of America's entire annual spending on overseas aid?

"...Strategic thinkers in the US have been planning this next stage of expansion for years. Paul Wolfowitz, now deputy secretary for defence, was writing about the need to invade Iraq in the mid-1990s. ...blood is a renewable resource; oil is not." George Monbiot, 'Too much of a good thing' The Guardian, February 18, 2003,5673,897814,00.html

"Blair's not listening to us anymore - he's just listening to Bush and Big Business". A comment on the GM 'Public Debate'? No, it was the main message from speakers to the two million at the Stop the War rally in Hyde Park [London].  Robert Vint, GM Crops and War - two struggles or one?

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